How kicker Peyton Woodring brushed off UGA football fans' criticism and thrived as freshman

When Georgia football fans last saw Peyton Woodring, the kicker finished his freshman season on quite the groove after a rocky start to his college career.

He’s still in a good rhythm, according to punter Brett Thorson this week.

“He’s been kicking well,” Thorson said before Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t want to jinx him but he hasn’t missed one in practice for a little while.”

Woodring experienced the highs and lows during his first college season, when he was the first true freshman kicker to start a season open for Georgia since Marshall Morgan in 2012.

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He missed three of his first seven tries, including two from 28 yards, but finished the season 21-for-25 and was one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award for nation’s top kicker.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Woodring said after the Orange Bowl. “Came back from a tough start, pushed through it and ended up finishing strong so I’m happy with it.”

Thorson and Woodring are the top specialists for Georgia and during the season hang out and “muck around a bit,” as Thorson put it.

“He caught a fair bit of criticism and came back and kicked I don’t know how many straight,” Thorson said. “He didn’t miss one for a long time.”

Woodring made 16 straight field goals until missing a 50-yarder against Alabama in the SEC championship game. He came back and converted from 34 yards in that game.

After he missed two of three field goals against South Carolina in Week 3, Woodring said he heard from fans on social media in what he called the most stressful week of his life.

“My phone blew up,” he said on the “Real Talk,” podcast with Thorson and Georgia offensive lineman Tate Ratledge. “I opened up my phone and I had 30 comments on Instagram on my last post and I go look at my DMs, it’s another like 40 DMs. I went and looked up my name on Twitter and one of the best ones was shift (offensive coordinator) Mike Bobo and Peyton Woodring off to China.”

The team — including the staff — had to do up-downs at practice for each of his missed kicks, he said.

So how did Woodring, a Lafayette, La., native said, make a course correction? He said in late December that he took a step back “from my process and everything and really grinded on what I needed to fix and ended up figuring it out.”

Woodring says he’s aiming for an even higher percentage this season.

He made 84 percent of his kicks in 2023 which ranked 26th in the nation and fourth in the SEC, according to Jack Podlesny a year earlier was 26-for-31, 83.9 percent.

William Mote, who handled long snapping duties last season for Woodring, says the sophomore “is only going to mature with the game as the game goes on and he’s going to learn more things. I’d say specialists, it’s 80 percent mental. Kicking, punting, snapping it’s not always easy to keep a level head and he’s getting better as that goes on.”

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Peyton Woodring silenced Georgia football critics with strong finish